Exodus – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Churn – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Mother – | Review Score – 4/5
Gaugamela – | Review Score – 5/5
Down and Out – | Review Score – 4.5/5
Tribes – | Review Score – 4/5
Oyedeng – | Review Score – 4/5
Hard Vacuum – | Review Score – 4/5
Winnipesaukee – | Review Score – 3/5
Nemesis Games – | Review Score – 4/5
With its unique blend of difficult political situations and an existential threat to the universe, The Expanse solidified itself as one of the best sci-fi series to grace the small screen when it dropped on Syfy back in 2016. This complicated web of sci-fi madness has always had more than a few similarities to Game Of Thrones.
Unlike Thrones however, The Expanse has always kept its focus on the end-goal, telling a compelling, character-driven story without losing all that in the face of “kinda forgetting” to tell a consistent story.
Hot off the back of season 4, which dropped in one go on Amazon right at the end of 2019, Amazon Studios held back with season 5, following the Hulu model of releasing 3 episodes and then 1 chapter a week. The result is a much more consistent watch, a show that’s given the time to breathe and build excitement across the weeks like it once did way back during its days on Syfy.
While season 4 leaned into the protomolecule and Sol Ring plotline, season 5 takes a step back and doubles down on the politics instead. With the Belters growing ever-restless, an extremist by the name of Marco Inaros takes the spotlight for much of the season. As he tries to rally the Belters together, our Roci crew find themselves split after their time on Ilus until the finale where everyone comes together to try and thwart this common enemy.
This consequently shifts the focus from one central story to different pockets of subplots that all work together across the course of the season. Amos finds himself back on Earth, running personal errands before being reunited with old faces from the past.
Naomi goes off in search of Filip, biting off more than she can chew when she realizes where he is. Alex also heads home too, before eventually teaming up with Bobbie, who’s on the verge of uncovering a massive Martian cover-up.
This leaves Holden, who, after his time on Ilus, continues to worry about the protomolecule threat lurking in the system. Specifically, he finds himself with the Belters and Fred Johnson; a loose alliance between them looks like it could sever at any minute.
And sever it does. Episode 4 of this season breaks a lot of the thin threads holding everything together, delivering an absolute hammer blow to all our characters in an episode that feels very reminiscent to the Red Wedding in Game Of Thrones.
The tension, drama and inevitable shockwaves that ripple out from this episode unfortunately expand out to the audience too, who will be split over the direction the show takes for the rest of the season.
The Expanse then is a bit of a mixed bag this year, with the individual episodes incredibly tense and dramatic but also lacking cohesion when viewed as a collective whole, something that wasn’t really evident in seasons past.
A lot of this comes from the disproportionate time the different characters have on screen and how important they are to the story. Holden and Alex, for example, have very little to do until very late in the game, with the latter reduced to single-set shots onboard the Firehawk for large periods of the season. There’s also an entire episode focused exclusively on Naomi too, which loses some of the expansiveness in this world.
Bobbie’s arc is almost non-existent after the midway point too, while Amos’ story on Earth lacks the intrigue it could have had with a lot of his time spent walking or searching.
It’s impossible to mention The Expanse without drawing these comparisons to Game Of Thrones (which I appreciate I’ve done throughout this review) but it also brings back some pretty big questions for the ending.
With the final book due to be released this year, it’ll be interesting to see exactly how Amazon wrap up this 9 book series into 10 chapters.
After the slow pace of season 4, season 5 started brightly and although the visual design, technicality and individual plot points hit the right notes, as a collective whole this season just misses the mark compared to what we’ve seen before. While it’s not a disappointment, the show is also not quite as expansive as it could have been.
With a cliffhanger ending and lots of unresolved questions, The Expanse is still one of the best sci-fi shows on TV but season 5 just misses the mark of excellence that its predecessors achieved so effortlessly.
Verdict - 8/10